The President's Cabinet: Gender, Power, and Representation.

Author:Dolan, Julie
Position::Book Review
 
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By MaryAnne Borrelli. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002. 277 pp.

In this very ambitious and important study, Borrelli sets out to understand how gender influences the politics of cabinet nominations in the United States. To this end, she conducts a longitudinal study of 23 women and 159 men nominated to cabinet positions in eight different presidential administrations, spanning Franklin Delano Roosevelt's to George W. Bush's. (The Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon presidencies are omitted from the analysis since none of them nominated a woman to serve in their cabinets.) The President's Cabinet painstakingly details the backgrounds and credentials of these women and men, the ways they were profiled and treated in media accounts, and their Senate confirmation experiences. As the first book-length treatment of gender in the U.S. cabinet, Borrelli's scholarship breaks new ground and will be cited by scholars for many years to come.

Borrelli examines those nominated to serve as U.S. cabinet secretaries, focusing on the extent to which women and men are treated equivalently throughout the process. Central to her research is the idea that the cabinet is a useful unit of political analysis, as are the concepts of regendering, transgendering, gender desegregation, and gender integration. According to Borrelli,

Regendering occurs when women and men are accepted into the same profession or nominated to similar offices but then are directed to exhibit gender-distinct behaviors.... Transgendering, in contrast, occurs when women and men are viewed as equally capable, though expectations of some gender differences continue. (P. 22) Drawing on these concepts, she explains that "gender integration ... occurs in a presidential administration's cabinet nominations and confirmations when there is more transgendering than regendering." In other words, when gender integration occurs, women are treated as equal partners who "are granted the full array of responsibilities and influence" (p. 25) instead of being viewed as tokens or "diversity" nominees selected simply to showcase their gender. Gender desegregation, on the other hand, is characterized by greater regendering than transgendering, whereby women are placed in stereotypically feminine positions with less prestige and influence than their male colleagues. Throughout, Borrelli aims to assess the extent to which cabinet nomination politics are undergoing regendering or transgendering and to determine if...

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